Japanese, Indian and English Number Systems

Japanese numbering system and method to denote and name higher count figures are different from English number system. Initially it was a bit difficult to get an idea of amount of figures while discussing with Japanese colleagues. International business figures are almost always in millions or billions. Japanese people have the same problem to understand when the figures are in millions and billions.

The Japanese system for numbers up to thousand uses similar system with that of the western system of numbering. For numbers up to thousand, in India also we use a similar system. Similar system means, we have different names to denote 100 and 1000. Generally we do not use any separate name for 10,000. It is just ‘das hazar’ in Hindi as ten thousand in English.

Before we start comparing the differences in dealing with higher numbers, it will be worth to recall the smaller count numbers in Japanese, English and Hindi.

Numbers                English                  Japanese                  Hindi
1                             One                          Ichi                            Ek
2                             Two                          Ni                             Do
3                             Three                        San                           Teen
4                             Four                         Yon/Shi                     Char
5                             Five                          Go                             Paanch
6                             Six                            Roku                         Che
7                             Seven                       Nana                         Saath
8                             Eight                         Hachi                        Aath
9                             Nine                         Kyu/Ku                     Nau
10                           Ten                           Ju                              Das
20                           Twenty                     Ni ju                          Bees
30                           Thirty                        San ju                        Tees
40                           Forty                        Yon ju                        Chalees
100                        One Hundred             Hyaku                        Ek sau
1000                      Thousand                   Sen                            Hazar
10,000                   Ten thousand              Man                          Das Hazar
100,000                 Hundred thousand      Ju man                       Lakh
1,000,000              One million                 Hyaku man                Das Lakh
10,000,000            Ten million                  Sen man                    Crore
100,000,000          One hundred million    Oku                           Das crore
1,000,000,000       One Billion                  Ju Oku                      Arab
Here, I wrote up to one billion only. One trillion, which is one thousand billions, is called Cho 兆 in Japanese and ten kharab in Indian system. Ancient Indian astrologers used big numbers to calculate the distance of stars and hence Indian numbering systems have names to denote really big numbers like one duodecillion, which is 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000. In Indian numbering system this is called Adant Singhar. It is not a surprise to use such big numbers for calculation while dealing with the universe.

In Japanese numbering system, ‘man 万’ is used to denote ten thousand. From ten thousand onwards Japanese people use ‘man’. Then Ichi man is 10,000, ni man is 20,000, san man is 30,000 and so on. The western system use ten thousand for 10,000, twenty thousand for 20,000 while the Indian (Hindi) system use a system similar to English like Bees hazar for 20,000 and Tees hazar for 30,000 etc. Up to one hundred thousand Indian and English systems are different. In India we use One lakh for one hundred thousand, which is ju man in Japanese.

Lakh and Crore are commonly used in India for business, while in Japan man and Oku 億 are used, in English Million and Billion are used. For me, the translation of figures from Indian to English and then to Japanese system of numbering takes much time to get an image when we discuss Ni hyaku man yen or Oku yen. Schools in India also teache Indian way of counting and denoting the numbers and the brain is forged to imagine the figures in terms of Lakhs and Crores.

With the globalization of the businesses in India, use of million and billion are quite common and it takes less time to translate the figures in mind to our lakhs and crores. It takes time to accommodate with new system used to deal with numbers. Years of building up of images and mental calculation based on one system can not be replaced totally with another system. Computer will make the things easy to convert the It is easy now to remember das lakh is one million and sau crore is one billion. The two process conversion of numbers from Indian to English and then to Japanese is many times a test for brain.

The other side of the story is the complaint from Japanese colleagues that the million and billions are too difficult for them!

Author: Jayaprakash

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